Most major corporates invest millions of rands on innovation or R&D departments.
R&D is that activity in the corporate world in which a bunch of nerdy, humourless and generally clueless sourpuss-scientist types spend their days creating products that will only become useful in the year 3245 AD and/or have no commercial value whatsoever. There’s a phrase for it — it’s called leading-edge innovation. I should know; I spent a number of years in one of these departments.
Major multinational corporates are not run by idiots — not in the classical sense of “idiot”, in any case. They wouldn’t keep these departments running if they didn’t come up with something useful at least once a decade. But what most company bosses do not know is how those once-in-a-decade innovation winners come about.
Most innovation is completely accidental. The assumption is that these brilliant minds sit there and conjure up these great ideas; in fact, they sit around pretending to be hard at work while waiting for the stumble-upon-it law (Suit) to deliver. The Suit delivers like clockwork according to an astrological cycle.
One of the coolest innovations in recent years is that whole PVR thingy. If you thought some really bright person came up with that one, you’d be wrong. I bet you the idea entered someone’s mind when they walked into their TV lounge during one of the SABC’s obligatory programming gaffes where they regale their viewers with last week’s programme right after seeing next week’s programme … you know what I mean. The Suit strikes again.
The reason I’m going on about this is because of an experience I had in a Malaysian washroom a few weeks ago. “Washroom” is Malaysian for an ablution facility, to the uninitiated. I walked into the stall whose floor was somewhat flooded, as usual, to do my business. Malaysian washroom floors tend to be flooded in general. It has to do with how they clean up afterwards. I do not think the details are necessary — just take my word for it.
To cut a long story short, the next stall was also occupied and I became the unwitting viewer of my stall neighbour’s post-relief grooming regimen due to the accidental mirror created by the gap between the floor and the prefab wall between the stalls.
I apologise for your waves of nausea. Let’s ignore the obvious mystery of the point of those freaking gaps between bathroom stalls. My point here is that when the gap-mirror patent I have registered makes me billions of rands, most people will consider me a genius of sorts when in fact it was the product of the Suit.
Oh, believe me; the gap mirror will revolutionise public bathroom hygiene maintenance. If you know your stall neighbour is watching, what are the chances that you’ll leave without flushing? How much will mall managers be willing to pay for floater-less ablution facilities?
The public does not need to thank me — the Mandla-and-Khanyi Lamborghinis for my wife and I, and the six-month vacations on my yacht will be enough reward. Would anyone like to venture a guess about who will be with us when we are living it up on the Pacific? No? Well, I’ll tell you. It will be the patent holder for the coolest device I have ever heard of, called the Shewee. It’s a portable urinating device for women. And no; I’m not making this up.
According to the Shewee website, it is “a moulded plastic funnel that provides women with a simple, private and hygienic method of urinating without removing clothes whilst standing and sitting”.
I know, I know. That was my reaction too. Just how cool is this thingamaweewee, huh? What I find incredibly fascinating about this whole thing is that Samantha Fountain, the woman (predictably) who invented the Shewee, designed it specifically for women. (Insert your own juvenile locker-room joke about her last name here. Mine is: Sam Fountain invented the fountain trap. Geddit?).
I think that by inventing it only for women, she unwittingly gave a ringing endorsement to the practice of men pissing and farting in public. In her own words: “It struck me how much easier it was for a guy to go to the toilet in a place where there were no facilities or nowhere to squat behind.” Of course I have a very strong opinion about this practice: street-whizzers should get a tax break for replenishing the soil’s nitrogen.
trap came up with her idea while studying towards her BA honours in product design at De Montfort University Leicester in the United Kingdom. She claims that the idea first came to her when she was writing her dissertation on how to improve the facilities in public toilets. This is an obvious lie.
I have sent her an email (really) and put it to her that she is doing a disservice to would-be inventors by being ingenious about her methods. I have humbly submitted to her that she was stuck in the UK’s horrendous traffic one day when she realised that she needed to go. Unlike men, the Coke Light can she was having would not have done the job without things getting messy. Fortunately for her, she was carrying a leather handbag that looked quite …water impermeable. She emptied it and — voila! — the idea for the Shewee was born.
Even though the idea for her ingenious invention was accidental, you have to give her credit for having the vision to see the commercial potential here. Women squatting in the Little Karoo and having their fleshy bits shredded to pieces by those midget cactus plants is just not on.
While her dumb classmates were fluffing around with stupid designs such as emission-free automobile engines and more efficient kidney dialysis equipment, our Sam was focusing on saving bums from cactus plants. There is no need to thank Sam, the patron saint for all upright whizzers. She has received her deserved reward. She was awarded the James Dyson Product Design Award, July 1999, for the design of the Shewee.
James Dyson is the British
housewife househusband who, tired of sweeping the carpet while his wife went to work, invented the vacuum cleaner. How I wish to have been a fly on the wall when the awards judging panel was deliberating on this decision:
Judge 1: I don’t know about that Shewee. I think young Malcolm’s artificial liver is a winner.
Judge 2: Angus, you really have to get out more so you can get married. Have you ever had to remove cactus needles from a woman’s butt?
Judge 1: Point taken. Bums over livers.
If you are thinking how there should be a Hewee for men, please give yourself a slap on the back of your head. Crap idea. The Shewee is described as “seven inches long and weighing less than a mobile phone … small enough to fit into even the most crammed of handbags”. There’s more, but I stopped reading at “handbags”. The Hewee would obviously not fit into a wallet. Especially since we all know the male version would come in different sizes, with the 12-inch version being the number-one seller. Men are an ambitious bunch.
I am really confident about that gap mirror thing. It will certainly do better than my last patent, a shirt with buttons at the back. I know; it seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. Please take note of the announcements below.
[Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not in any way associated with the Shewee and will reject any accusations that he is a local sales agent for the Shewee with the contempt that they deserve.
Bulletin: I have nothing to say about the David Bullard “situation”. Please stop emailing about it. Thanks.]